Crossing State Lines: Interstate Travel in New England during COVID-19 Pandemic

Quarantines Reinstated within New England amid Rising Case Numbers

Last updated January 22, 2021

Please note that location-based exemptions change often and without notice, so please be sure to check the listing for the states you plan to include in your travels. Some states are aggressively enforcing travel restrictions, and it is important to check both state and local requirements of your departure point and destination, as well as states you may be transiting, prior to travel.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, states have instituted requirements or other guidance for travelers from out of state. After months of steady declines in requirements, the winter surge in COVID-19 cases has led many states to reinstate quarantines, even for other New England states.  A summary for each state in New England is outlined below. Our state-by-state overview of business and social restrictions more generally throughout New England is available here.

Both the federal government and the states have the authority to impose quarantines and travel restrictions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents. While the authorities vary from state to state, violating such orders is generally a misdemeanor criminal offense. We note that the Department of Homeland Security has announced another extension of its limitation on travel between Canada and the U.S. at ports of entry along the US-Canada border, permitting only essential travel through February 21, 2021.  Similarly, Canada continues to restrict entry into Canada from the U.S. to essential travel and immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. On January 21, the new White House issued an executive order requiring relevant authorities to take action to require masks for workers in all airports, commercial aircrafts, trains, and other modes of public transportation.

The CDC’s guidance on what to consider before traveling within the United States during the pandemic includes the following: whether you are traveling to a hotspot, whether where you live or your destination requires quarantine after traveling, and determining whether you live with someone who is vulnerable. We note that effective January 26, the CDC now requires a negative COVID test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 for all air passengers arriving to the United States from a foreign country. Additional information is available here.

Connecticut

On December 18, Governor Ned Lamont issued Order 9S, amending certain sections of prior travel-related executive orders. Under the order, implemented by the state’s public health travel advisory, “affected states” subject to the travel restrictions is now defined as any state other than New York, New Jersey, or Rhode Island. “Affected Country” continues to cover all international travelers.  All such travelers must self-quarantine for a 10-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state or country.

Alternatively, travelers are exempt from the quarantine requirement if they obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to arriving in Connecticut in lieu of the 10-day quarantine, but must have written proof of such a result. If the result of the test is still pending upon entry to the state, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is obtained. Travelers from affected locations who have received the COVID-19 vaccination are still subject to the quarantine requirement unless otherwise exempt.

The travel restrictions continue to apply to all travelers, including residents returning to Connecticut from an impacted state, and business and pleasure travelers. However, it does not apply to travelers coming into the state following only a layover or pass-through of less than 24 hours in an impacted state or country, and does not apply to those who travel to Connecticut for less than 24 hours. The order also exempts essential workers provided the travel was work-related (both those who work in the state and those who live here but work in an affected state), although additional protocols for essential workers may be issued. Persons who are COVID-recovered (those who tested positive for COVID more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms) are also exempt, but must have documentation of the positive test.

All travelers into the state, even those not required to quarantine or test, must complete a Travel Health Form prior to or upon arrival in the state. Failure to self-quarantine or complete the Travel Health Form may result in a civil penalty of $500 for each violation.

Maine

Unless one of the following exemptions applies, all travelers to Maine, including returning residents, must quarantine for 10 days. The Keep Maine Healthy plan exempts travelers who obtain a negative COVID-19 test result from a specimen taken no longer than 72 hours prior to arrival in Maine from the 10-day quarantine requirement. Visitors are encouraged to get tested and receive their test results in their home state before traveling to Maine. Any individual who chooses to be tested upon arrival in Maine must quarantine while awaiting the results. A list of test sites is available here.

Travelers from New Hampshire and Vermont are currently exempt from the quarantine and testing requirements. Notably, Maine residents who visit an exempted state are not required to quarantine upon returning to Maine. Essential workers are also exempt from testing and quarantine requirements if they are traveling to Maine to perform essential work, or are from Maine and are traveling out-of-state for essential work and returning home.

Travelers who are not residents of Maine or exempted states will be asked to sign a Certificate of Compliance or use the Pledge to Protect ME online tool to demonstrate compliance with the travel and quarantine requirements. This compliance form must be provided to check in at all Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals, overnight camps, and other commercial lodging, such as Airbnb. Visitors may be asked to furnish proof of the negative test result upon request. Our detailed discussion of these requirements is available here.

Enforcement of the state’s travel restrictions is pursuant to 37-B M.R.S. §786(1), which permits violators to be charged with a Class E crime that includes punishment of up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and the payment of civil damages to the State for its costs associated with testing, investigating, contact tracing, and otherwise determining the extent of COVID-19 transmission.

Massachusetts

Order 45 requires all out of state (and international) travelers entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, to quarantine for 10 days or produce a negative COVID-19 result from a test administered within 72 hours prior to arrival in the state. If results from a test taken within 72 hours of arrival are not obtained by the time of arrival, the traveler must quarantine until the negative result is received. If traveling for less than 72 hours, the test cannot have been administered prior to leaving the state, and must be administered upon return. If traveling with children under 10 years of age, the child does not need a COVID-19 test; children over 11 years of age either need to be tested or quarantine for 10 days unless another exemption applies.  Persons who are COVID-recovered (those who tested positive for COVID more than 10 days but less than 90 days ago and who do not have symptoms) are also exempt, but must have documentation of the positive test. All entrants not meeting one of the exemptions are also required to complete a Travel Form. Additional guidance is available here.

Effective December 13, Massachusetts will return to Step 1 of Phase 3 of its reopening via Order 58 and reinstate previous limits on gathering size via Order 57. Our alert on the new restrictions is available here. Until then, the current restrictions outlined below remain in place.

Travelers from “low risk” states are exempt from these requirements. A state is considered low risk if it has an average of fewer than 10 daily cases per 100,000 people and a positive test rate below 5%, both measured as a 7-day rolling average. As of this update, Hawaii is the only exempt state. Also exempt are commuters, patients seeking or receiving medical treatment, military personnel, and workers providing critical infrastructure services. Please refer to our alert on this order for more information.

Failure to comply with this order may result in a $500 fine per day.

New Hampshire

Order 72 requires all travelers entering New Hampshire to adhere to the travel-related provisions in the Universal Guidelines. Guidance from NH Public Health Services clarifies that anyone entering the state, including returning residents, must self-quarantine for 10 days following the last date of any high-risk travel. High risk travel includes any travel internationally (including to/from Canada); on a cruise ship or domestic travel outside of New England (Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or Rhode Island) for non-essential purposes.

Essential travel includes travel for work, school, personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for medication, and for food or beverage (brief trips for take-out and groceries only). Essential travel also includes travel for students and their parents or guardians who are visiting institutions of higher learning or preparatory high schools as potential future students, including allowing the students to remain at the schools for overnight stays.

Travelers are permitted to quarantine for the 10 days prior to their travel to New Hampshire so long as their travel to New Hampshire is via personal vehicle; otherwise, the quarantine must be in state. A traveler may end the quarantine by receiving a negative COVID test after 7 days of quarantine, provided the person is also asymptomatic. This “test-out” exemption does not apply to persons quarantining due to close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19. Also exempt are persons who are 14 days beyond the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine or those who have recovered from a positive COVID test within the past 90 days. Additional guidance is available here.

Under prior executive orders, the penalties for violating emergency rules and regulations related to the coronavirus in New Hampshire are generally $1,000 for each violation or each day a violation continues.

Rhode Island

Order 108, effective December 21, keeps in place the 14-day quarantine requirement for international travel into Rhode Island and for domestic cross-border travel for non-work-related purpose from states with high community spread, states with a COVID-19 positivity rate over 5%, as well as its travel protocol as coordinated with Connecticut. As of this update, the only states not considered hotspots are Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, North Dakota and Vermont. A negative COVID test does not exempt international travelers from the 14-day quarantine.

However, travelers from hotspots, as an alternative to quarantine, may provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 taken within 72 hours prior to arrival in Rhode Island. Visitors must quarantine while waiting for test results, and may only end the quarantine if a negative result is obtained. Upon arrival, visitors subject to these requirements must complete a certificate of compliance and an out-of-state travel screening form.

These self-quarantine and testing requirements do not apply to public health, public safety or healthcare workers, people traveling for medical treatment, to attend funeral or memorial services, to obtain necessities such as groceries, gas or medication, to drop off or pick up children from day care, summer camps, or to anyone who must work on their boats. Quarantine guidance for those in close contact with someone with COVID-19 is available here.

Vermont

Vermont implemented a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont. Residents returning to the state must complete either 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative COVID test. All students returning home from a college or university, in-state or out of state, must either (1) quarantine at home for fourteen days, with a test for COVID-19 strongly encouraged, or (2) quarantine for a minimum of 7 days followed by a negative COVID test. Guidance for organized sports specifically notes that any athlete or team that leaves the state for practice, scrimmage, or competition must complete a quarantine before returning to work, school, or attending public events.

Non-resident travelers entering Vermont in a personal vehicle must complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions. Travelers arriving to Vermont who have not completed a pre-arrival quarantine (ie those traveling via public transportation or from further than a direct car ride) may complete either (1) a 14-day quarantine or (2) a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family, although travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site. Guidance for lodging operators, including guest-compliance with the travel requirements is available here. Note that as part of Vermont’s suspension on social gatherings between households, travelers may not gather with another household in the state even after completing a quarantine.

All previous exemptions to quarantine requirements still apply, including those for people traveling for essential purposes. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate, or to attend pre K-12 school and college if commuting daily. However, the current State of Emergency requires employers to use remote work and telework whenever possible, and cautions businesses and employees to only travel for work related trips when absolutely necessary. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their place of employment are also exempt from quarantine requirement.

For questions on how these orders affect your business, please contact firm attorneys Kathleen Hamann or Sarah Remes.